Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – The 10th Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie – Directed by James Gunn – Starring Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper, Vin Diesel, Glenn Close, Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin, Alex Denisof, Ophelia Lovibond, Peter Serafinowicz, Gregg Henry, Laura Haddock, Alex Denisof, Josh Brolin, Lloyd Kaufman, Nathan Fillion, Rob Zombie, Seth Green, and Stan Lee.
Welcome to a series of specific, character-based reactions to the GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY. You can read the review of the GUARDIANS movie here, and you can read all of my superhero movie reviews (and the specific character reactions to Marvel’s The Avengers) right here. One note – I have watched the movie twice but we’re working on a week since I’ve seen it last so it is entirely possible (but completely unintentional) that I might get a quote or two wrong. If I do, I can only apologize and ask that you feel free to correct me. Thanks.
John C. Reilly’s Rhomann Dey is a member of the Nova Corps, positioned somewhere in the organization’s hierarchy below SHIELD’s Maria Hill and above the dude playing Galaga. He’s at a rank high enough to be able to get the ear of Nova Prime (Glenn Close) but not so high he doesn’t head outside to arrest some malcontents treating a public Xandarian square as their own setting for a game of Keep Away. He works in the center of the Nova Corps command, but lives in a modest apartment with his wife and daughter.
Yes, he has a fancy Nova Corps uniform (which look fantastic on screen), but he carries a wimpy little briefcase to and from work like a normal schlub.
I love Everyman characters like Corpsman Dey, as they can help keep a film grounded, or at least demonstrate the amount of awe we should be feeling by a certain situation. They provide an important perspective on how what we might be thinking as an audience is different from what the people in the film might be thinking.
Take Dey’s relationship with Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). It’s Dey who arrests Quill after he, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot tear up a Xandarian public square over the orb Peter stole from Morag (or, more properly, Gamora and Peter are playing Keep Away and Rocket and Groot are playing Tag Him and Bag Him!). Dey has arrested Quill before, and greets him with a mocking, “Hey, it’s Star-Prince.” This scene is good for a small laugh, but it also serves to tell us that Peter is not just a criminal in the romantic sense, but one who has run afoul of the Nova Corps before.
It’s Corpsman Dey that books the four of them into the system, giving Garthaan Saal (Peter Serafinowicz) a quick rundown of their names and criminal records. Much like Korath’s initial meeting with Quill, the booking scene’s main contribution to the film was how it was cut for the trailer. I had concerns that this scene wouldn’t even be in the movie, given how its such a perfectly concise infodump, and while the scene makes it into the film, it’s slightly different, given that they haven’t even met Drax, nor have taken the Guardians name, yet.
Dey does not go with them to the Kyln, and the film makes a point to differentiate between the good cops of the Nova Corps on Xandar and the bad cops at the Kyln. It’s an important distinction, as it foregrounds Dey’s eventual decision to trust Quill when the escaped criminal calls ahead to tell the Nova Corps that Ronan is coming.
Dey receiving Quill’s call is a funny scene, as it comes in on his cellphone, complete with a goofy picture of Quill and a “Peter Quill” tag. (At first, I was a little disappointed Dey’s phone said “Peter Quill” instead of “Star-Prince,” but that would indicate that Day and Quill were phone pals and would diminish the point of Dey deciding to believe and trust him.) Dey takes this message to Nova Prime Irani Rael, and Reilly plays his believing hesitancy perfectly against Close’s stone cold demeanor. He tells Prime that Quill says, “he’s a dick, but not 100% a dick” and when Prime asks if he believes that, Dey honestly (and a little sheepishly) answers, “Well, I don’t know if I believe anyone is 100% a dick,” which earns him a sharp rebuke and a pointed, “Do you trust him.”
“Yeah,” he says, “I do.”
When the good guys have won and Ronan’s forces have been defeated, it’s Dey who presents Quill with a refurbished ship, and it’s Dey’s thanks that offer the emotional gratitude of the Xandarian people to balance off Nova Prime’s professional thanks. He gets to have funny exchanges with both Rocket and Drax over the illegality of theft and murder, and it’s to Reilly’s credit that he can go from appreciative to befuddled/humorous to emotional, switching one last time to offer personal thanks to Peter by telling him he’s got a wife and kids and they’re safe because of him.
The film gives us one last shot of Dey, as we see him returning home, dropping his briefcase by the door and then hugging his wife and daughter. It’s the Guardians’ version of the schawarma scene in AVENGERS – the battle is over, the good guys have won, and normality comes quickly back into the picture. Corpsman Dey is going to have dinner, play with his daughter, watch a little TV, and maybe, given the events of the day, make love to his wife, but come 6 AM the next morning, the alarm is going to go off, he’s going to push himself out of bed, shuffle to the bathroom, look disapprovingly at his gut, take a shower, put on his uniform, gather up his briefcase, and head back to the office.
Corpsman Dey is a small character and you want to be careful not to overstate the importance of small characters, but GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is better every time John C. Reilly’s face appears in a scene.
Compare Reilly’s Dey to Djimon Hounsou’s Korath, who was underutilized as a character and underused as an actor, and not allowed to shine but existed only to make other people look better. Like Korath, Dey is also a secondary, subordinate character (and like Hounsou, Reilly is also a fantastic actor), but unlike Korath, Dey is allowed to matter. He gets the better of Quill early in the film, has his opinion sought out by Nova Prime, and gets to have a family. It would not have taken much to make Korath matter in this way, but where the film does not take full advantage of Hounsou’s abilities as an actor, it does so with Reilly, allowing him to be funny and smart and embarrassed and thankful.
Corpsman Dey is a good character and Reilly gives a good performance. I hope we see him, again.
The Complete Box of GUARDIANS Reactions
1. GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY: Ain’t No Thing Like Me Except Me
2. GOTG: The YONDU Reaction
3. GOTG: The NEBULA Reaction
4. GOTG: The KORATH Reaction
5. GOTG: The GROOT Reaction
6. GOTG: The CORPSMAN DEY Reaction
7. GOTG: The NOVA PRIME Reaction
8. GOTG: The RONAN Reaction
9. GOTG: The DRAX Reaction
10. GOTG: The COLLECTOR Reaction
11. GOTG: The GAMORA Reaction
12. GOTG: The STAR-LORD Reaction
13. GOTG: The ROCKET Reaction